May 7, 2019
This article first appeared in National Disability Institute’s (NDI) March/April Issue of the Washington Insider Newsletter. The ABLE National Resource Center is managed by NDI.
In the previous edition of National Disability Institute’s (NDI) Washington Insider, we reported that legislation was expected to be introduced immediately to dramatically increase the number of individuals with disabilities who could benefit from ABLE accounts. We are pleased to report that bills in both the U.S. Senate and House are now in play, and support for their enactment is growing.
The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651/H.R. 1814) would amend Section 529A(e) of the Internal Revenue Code to increase the eligibility threshold for ABLE accounts for onset of disability from prior to age 26 to prior to age 46. ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts that are designed to enable individuals with disabilities to save for and pay for qualified disability expenses (QDEs).
Previously introduced in the 114th and 115th Congresses, the bipartisan ABLE Age Adjustment Act has now been reintroduced in the 116th Congress by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Pat Roberts (R-KS). A House version was also recently reintroduced by Representatives Cardenas (D-CA) and McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA). Co-sponsorship of both the House and Senate versions of the bill is growing and on a strong bipartisan basis.
Why is an increase in the age of eligibility necessary?
As currently written, the existing ABLE Act prevents otherwise eligible individuals with disabilities from realizing the benefits of ABLE accounts. By passing the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, more than 14 million people with disabilities would be allowed to open ABLE accounts, nearly doubling the current eligible population. Passing this critical legislation will increase the financial security of people across the spectrum of disabilities without jeopardizing their much-needed public benefits. Moreover, an increase in the number of potential account owners is critical for the long-term sustainability of ABLE programs across the country. There are currently 41 state ABLE programs, including Washington, D.C. (with Arkansas being the most recent state to establish an ABLE program), empowering individuals with disabilities to achieve and maintain health, independence and quality of life. However, the long-term sustainability, availability and affordability of these programs are in doubt without an expansion of age of onset eligibility and other enhancements. Data from the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) in 2017 showed that passage of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act is critical for the sustainability of ABLE programs.
Advocates should reach out to each of their two U.S. Senators and their member of the U.S. House of Representatives and urge them to co-sponsor the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, S. 651 in the Senate, and H.R. 1814 in the House. Members of Congress need to hear that it is imperative that the legislation be enacted immediately both to bolster the national viability of state ABLE programs and to dramatically expand the reach and benefit of ABLE accounts. Please visit the U.S. Senate website to find the contact information for your senators, and the U.S. House of Representatives website for a directory of representatives.